Photo by Mary Kiesau
The property purchased by the Methow Conservancy is part of the original Heckendorn family homestead.

146-acre site may be part of new open-space park

The Methow Conservancy announced this week that is has purchased what it described as “a 146-acre iconic hillside property” adjacent to Winthrop from Bob Heckendorn.

In a press release, the Conservancy said the purchase is “an important milestone that sets the stage for the planning and development of an open space park located on Studhorse Mountain.” The land, adjacent to current Winthrop Town Limits, is part of the original Heckendorn family homestead.   

“We are thrilled to celebrate this purchase of the Heckendorn’s beautiful hillside property which serves as a backdrop to the Town of Winthrop, and we look forward to helping to facilitate a lasting outcome that the Heckendorn family can be proud of and that will benefit the town for future generations,” said Methow Conservancy’s Land Program Manager Jeanne White, who facilitated the transaction.

“It has been a real pleasure to work with the Methow Conservancy,” said Bob Heckendorn, whose family homesteaded the property in the 1850s. “I feel great knowing that this land that has been in my family so long will be protected. This makes me very happy.”

The Conservancy typically has not purchased land in the past, preferring to use conservation easements which leave the land in private ownership. But the Heckendorn property required a different approach, the Conservancy said in its press release.

“We recognized this as one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to step in and preserve open space for the benefit of future generations,” said Methow Conservancy Executive Director Jason Paulsen in the release. “Vibrant towns where people want to live and raise their families complement our work to conserve irreplaceable farmland, wildlife habitat and scenic areas outside of town.” 

Funding for the purchase came from the Tina Scull Conservation and Stewardship Opportunity Fund for the Methow Valley, the Conservancy said. The fund, held by the Community Foundation of North Central Washington, was made possible through the generous vision of long-time Methow Valley landowners Tina and Eliot Scull.

The Town of Winthrop is working on a grant application to the state Wildlife and Recreation Program to potentially purchase 139 acres of the property with the vision of it serving as an open space park with walking trails accessible from town.

“We’re grateful to have an organization like the Methow Conservancy who can step in as a trusted partner and respond to opportunities like this in our valley” said Winthrop Mayor Sally Ranzau.

In addition to 139 acres of open space, the Methow Conservancy’s purchase also includes approximately 7 acres below the Chewuch ditch that the town has eyed for possible future expansion.

“That 7 acres has been identified by the Town of Winthrop Comprehensive Plan as a future expansion area, and this purchase will allow the town to work collaboratively with the Conservancy to explore future opportunities for planned growth there as well,” said Ranzau.